American author Ronald Malfi brings out the first of his books to be published in India – The Canyon of Souls. The aptly-titled book takes the reader on a journey across continents, scaling Himalayan peaks and dealing with ghosts from the past.
Tim Overleigh, a famous sculptor has lost the love of his life, his confidence and his ability to sculpt. Drowning himself in the joy that whiskey offers, he pushes himself to near insanity. A chance meeting with a long lost friend, Andrew Traumbauer presents him with an opportunity to live once again.
The Canyon of Souls traces Overleigh’s journey along with six other men, to conquer the mysterious Canyon of Souls in Nepal, a land so pristine and pure that has been untouched by mankind. Their journey is just as rocky as the terrain they climb, peppered with a threat to their lives from the mysterious forces believed to exist around the Godesh range, icy cold winds, death and the ghosts that live within each of them.
Malfi uses simple language, infusing his narrative with just the right amount of sarcasm and humour. The descriptions of the beautiful Himalayan ranges are as vivid and colourful as the millions of hues in the sunsets described. Images of the breathtaking scenery played out effortlessly in my mind, making every scenario come alive. Apart from nature, Malfi’s accounts of the accidents and injuries that affect the characters made my stomach churn. He has a knack for making nightmares seem very, very real.
The narrative plays out in parts, the past and the present stitched together seamlessly in a smooth flow of words. While the start of one chapter may talk of scaling peaks, you suddenly find yourself reading about Overleigh’s past nightmares. Many a times such a non-linear narrative could leave the reader confused. This is not the case with this book. The links that Malfi makes do not jerk the reader’s vision or leave him lost in between the past and the present.
The title of the book suggests it to be one about a journey to a mysterious land. Neither did the cover nor the synopsis prepare me for the thriller-track that it took towards the end. The book was extremely slow-paced at the start, but picked up speed somewhere in the middle to a point where I couldn’t put it down.
While the central character has a strong portrayal, I felt that several other characters weren’t written at par. Though Tim Overleigh was meant to be the heart and soul of the book, it did tend to overshadow most of the others to a large extent. The subtlety with which the negativity in a character was written seemed to give the character a humane feel, but didn’t do justice to the ‘thriller’ that the novel was supposed to be.
The Canyon of Souls is an adventurous read, combining complex concepts such as mysticism and spirituality with something as simple as forgiveness and moving on in an engrossing narrative. It will take you a while to read it from cover to cover, but in the end every minute is worth it. This book is highly recommended to those who are in search of something that sticks with them apart from the regular fiction offerings.